What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and How Can it Benefit Your Business's Marketing?

What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and How Can it Benefit Your Business's Marketing?

Read Time: 4 Minutes


26 Oct 2018

75 years ago, US behavioural psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, in which he identified 5 types of needs every human has, and aims to explain the connection between the things we actually need to survive and the things we simply desire. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is still a huge model that’s used in the business world today. Here, we’ll be explaining the five levels of need, why this theory is so important and how your business can use this model for successful marketing.


What are the Five Levels of the Hierarchy of Needs?

Often set out in a pyramid structure with basic human needs at the bottom, Maslow suggested that, as each ‘need’ is met, we move up a step in the hierarchy.

  1. Physiological Needs

These are the fundamental, basic human needs we must fulfil to survive, including food, water and sleep.

  1. Safety Needs

This is the need to feel safe and protected. For example, we purchase car insurance and this is also the reason why job security is so important to us.

  1. Social Needs

This level represents our need for love and a sense of belonging. To avoid loneliness, depression or anxiety, personal relationships with friends and family plays an important role, as does the feeling of belonging to some kind of community like a club or a religious group.

  1. Esteem Needs

Once the first three needs have been met, our behaviour is motivated by our need to feel respected and appreciated by others. This includes feelings of accomplishment and also self-esteem; people need to feel like they are contributing to something.

  1. Self-Actualisation Needs

At the very top of the needs pyramid are the self-actualisation needs. If someone is ‘self-actualised’, they are self-aware, are unlikely to care what others think of them and are interest in personal growth and fulfilling their potential.


How Can I Use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Business?

How to Identify Your Business’ Target Market

  • Create a company persona. This is a character you create to help you understand the core customer groups you’ll be hoping to target your products/services to.
  •  As well incorporating characteristics like age, gender and income, personas also include more specific information like interests and reasons for buying a particular product.
  • You can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to define your company persona even more – you can identify your ideal customer’s needs by identifying whereabouts they fall on the pyramid of needs.

For example, a young parent who is at the ‘Safety Needs’ level of the hierarchy isn’t going to be interested in a top-of-the-range sports car. However, someone who’s at the ‘Esteem Needs’ level will want a car that makes them feel good about themselves, maybe even one that’s been endorsed by a celebrity – premium brands are generally targeted at this level of the hierarchy.


How to Motivate Your Employees

  • For a successful business, you need motivated and enthusiastic employees who are excited to work hard to help your business thrive.
  • To motivate your staff, you need to understand their motives; what’s driving them to satisfy their basic human needs.
  • Ideally, you’ll be able to help employees move up all levels of the pyramid – initially they will need to get a job to fulfil their basic needs of food, shelter and water. Creating a sense of job security will also play a huge part in their motivation levels.
  • Once you’ve helped them achieve their basic needs, your employees will desire a feeling of closeness to the group – belonging. This can be encouraged through ice-breaker activities and team building days.
  • By recognising their achievements and giving praise where it’s due, you can help motivate your employees even more because they’ll feel like they’re making a difference (therefore feeding the ‘Esteem needs’).
  • By providing high-quality training and opportunities for your employees, they’ll fulfil the very top need of ‘Self-actualisation’!


How you choose to use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to inform your own business decisions is entirely up to you. Having some working knowledge behind what makes both customers and employees tick, however, is essential to successfully targeting and running your business so that it can flourish!


About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura and I’m the Head of instantprint. I’m dedicated to using my experience to help small businesses make the most out of their marketing.